Pedlars were the first direct sellers. Later, direct selling was a flourishing industry in Europe and continued to grow. It helped trade growth and took that trade to the four corners of the world. It is most likely that many of the pioneers that travelled to America were direct sellers.
Then in 1886, from a small office in Manhattan, David H McConnell started Avon, the industry giant we know today. It wasn't until the 50s and 60s that modern direct selling took off in the United States, then on to the UK during the 70s. By 1980, companies such as Herbalife were operating from Hobart in Tasmania to Reykjavík in Iceland.
I have my own stories of direct selling, and I'm sure many of you do. I remember back in the 70s, my dear mum going to Tupperware parties and then trying Avon for herself. A few years back, my wife worked with Kleeneze, which she really enjoyed, My wife also said that all the walking delivering catalogues was good exercise, which saved on gym fees (every cloud, so to speak).
Direct selling has become ever more popular in the UK since the 2008 recession. A mixture of less job security, austerity, the rise of new exciting companies and several other factors have given people the nudge they needed to go into business for themselves. Not everyone has the funds or can afford the financial risk to open a shop, so direct selling is a good starting option.
According to the Direct Selling Association, there are 563,000 people involved with the industry in the UK – however, what exactly is modern direct selling? Let's take an in-depth look into how it works, the pros and cons, what's required, the need to knows and last but not least, tips and advice from genuine direct sellers.
When you earn a living by selling products in a non-retail environment (shopless), it is called direct selling. Generally, you'll be an independent contractor as opposed to an employee. You'll have a direct selling organisation such as Amway or Younique from which you may buy and sell.
Sellers rely on their communication skills and often demonstrate products in people's homes to small groups, often called parties. With modern social media, many sell to their social network or create virtual parties.
People sell from their chosen organisation, offering varying products from company to company, most organisations commonly offer either health, cosmetics or homewares.
Since COVID, many companies are doing everything they can to support direct sellers. Some organisations, for instance, offer online catalogues and provide you with a unique URL (link). You, in turn, give that link to your customers so they can buy online; you then get paid a percentage of the sale called commission.
TIP: When researching your chosen company, it's always a good idea to see what support services they offer you.
That's just one way. Essentially you sell exclusive products (generally not sold in shops) to your customers and earn a commission.
You may hear all about the success stories. But to make a decent living takes perseverance and hard work. You'll need to build a good network, so get out there and meet and chat to people who have shown interest in the products you promote. Building a good network will take time, whether that be online or not.
TIP: You'll never build a good network if you just focus on family and friends. One of the benefits of direct selling is meeting new and exciting people.
Always be professional and polite. Also being friendly, bubbly, chatty, outgoing, quirky and confident may also help. Find what works for you and stick with it. Beware of propositions that promise huge monthly earnings, while it is possible, good companies will never make these promises. So when choosing your organisation, do your research.
TIP: You may have seen people spamming social media with all sorts of promises on your earnings potential, I'd avoid these and again do your research.
TIP: Separate your business' social network from your family and friends social network and never give out too much personal information.
The first rule of selling anything is to be passionate about the product. If you don't care about what you're selling, it will be so much harder to overcome the obstacles to success. If you love trying makeovers, then cosmetics may be a great choice; if, however, you're into fitness, perhaps nutrition will be more a better fit.
Now you need to look at the companies that offer the products that spark your interest. Try out the products if you can, check the commission structure and benefits offered. Do the company values fit with your values?
Where's the best place to start looking for your new business partner? The Direct Selling Association (DSA) have a list of member companies operating in the UK. Of course, you may be recruited by a friend or already have a company in mind.
There are some great companies that are not members of the DSA. I may of mentioned this a few times already, but please do your homework. How long has the company been operating? What are their reviews like? Do they have great support services? Speak to other reps already working for your chosen company for more insight. Always find the best fit for you. You can always change your mind later on.
TIP: If you go to bed thinking about makeovers and wake up thinking about makeovers, selling cleaning products may not be for you. Always focus on what you love.
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